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21 Dec 2015

Audibles at the Line: Week 15

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to turn into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these emails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching, just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Kansas City Chiefs 34 at Baltimore Ravens 14

Aaron Schatz: Why are the Ravens wearing gold pants? Do they hate America? It's dreadful.

Actually, the gold pants combined with tall black socks suggests that if the Ravens take the Chiefs to overtime, they'll decide the game with a horse dressage contest.

Vince Verhei: I finally saw Baltimore's gold pants. They look very much like Don James-era University of Washington uniforms, so I am required to like them.

Carolina Panthers 38 at New York Giants 35

Cian Fahey: It's frustrating to see cornerbacks getting built up on catches, yards, and passer rating allowed stats because of that play from Odell Beckham. Beckham burns Josh Norman, beats him as badly as he can be beat, but the receiver drops the ball so Norman's numbers suggest he shut him down.

Aaron Schatz: Well, on the other hand, I hate the idea that "shutdown cornerback" means you never, ever, ever get beat. Nobody is perfect. Everyone loses the battle once in a while. Norman may be the best cornerback in the game right now, but Beckham may be the best receiver. They're both clear in the top five. Each one is going to win some and lose some.

Scott Kacsmar: I'm just annoyed that the slot is treated as some mystical territory where No. 1 cornerbacks like Josh Norman can't travel with their main assignment. Yeah, you might not want a big, slow guy like Brandon Browner in there, but these smaller, faster cornerbacks shouldn't have that much of a problem with it. Moving Beckham around and letting Norman cover a guy like Dwayne Harris is something the Giants have to take advantage of. Huge dropped touchdown by Beckham already.

Also, very disappointing punt on fourth-and-1 by the Giants in Carolina territory. I don't ever see the point in punting in a 0-0 game in the first quarter on fourth-and-1 there. You can't be afraid of the opponent going up 7-0.

Cian Fahey: It's not mystical, it's pretty simple really. Boundary cornerbacks can use the sideline, slot cornerbacks have to be able to play both ways so it's a lot tougher.

Scott Kacsmar: But how many guys are even close to exclusively covering sideline routes? Can't use the sideline if the receiver is cutting to the middle of the field. I'm never paying a guy $15 million per year if he can't follow a receiver all over the field. So much of that position's perceived success is built on factors out of the corner's control, like the accuracy of these passes or when a guy flat out drops the ball after beating you the way Beckham did there.

Aaron Schatz: 47-yard run by Cam Newton sets up 3-yard touchdown pass to Ted Ginn. A great example of how Newton's physical running style makes him so different from other top quarterbacks, but also a great example of why FIREWORKS ARE DANGEROUS.

Also, just to go back, I want to point out Scott's mention of the Giants punting from Carolina territory. It wasn't the 49 or 48. They punted from the Carolina 41. 41!! On fourth-and-1. Ridiculous.

Panthers and Giants now tied at 7. Panthers blow coverage when two guys go with Odell Beckham and nobody covers Reuben Randle on a wheel route up the left sideline.

Absolutely beautiful play call by the Panthers on a third-and-1. The Giants stuffed the middle, but the Panthers faked the handoff. The Giants also had someone protecting against a Cam Newton bootleg, which is what I thought was the original plan here, run for a first down... except Greg Olsen was also open crossing from left to right. Newton tossed it to him and he went all the way for the touchdown. Just a great, great play.

Odell Beckham's total personal breakdown today is embarrassing. The constant fighting with Josh Norman started early and he's just lost it as the game has gone on and he hasn't gotten the ball. He's frustrated but it seems like he's fighting with Norman after every play. He just went after Norman with an intentional helmet-to-helmet hit as Norman was helping to tackle a Giants running back.

Actually, I'm sure by the time we post Audibles in the morning, every reader will be sick to death of talking about this -- because believe me, this is what everyone is going to be talking about for the rest of today. It's really been awful.

Andrew Healy: Just saw the touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Will Tye to make it 35-14 Panthers and it looked like he clearly had it with two steps before eventually losing it two seconds later after getting pushed to the ground. That one would even stand on review most likely, but amazing that you even have to wonder for a second on that one.

The Giants get a field goal block that prevents the Panthers from going up 38-21 with about 10 minutes left. Three plays later and Eli throws a pick when he really should have thrown it away. The field goal block is a great play by Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie but almost has to be an unusually clear blocking breakdown. Looked like Rodgers-Cromartie got that with his body or close to it rather than his outstretched fingertips.

Aaron Schatz: And then Cam Newton gets stripped on the Carolina 14 and the Giants go in to score on three plays. It's 35-28. It seems like every time I look up at the TV with Giants-Panthers, the Giants have gotten the ball back somehow. Are the Panthers really going to blow a 35-7 lead? And am I really going to be stuck trying to explain how they aren't No. 1 in DVOA when they escape with another close win? Aaarrrggghhh.

Scott Kacsmar: Giants have plenty of time, though I wouldn't be surprised to see a 38-35 Carolina win at this point. Giants have to feel sick about that first half with the Beckham dropped touchdown, which seemed to set him down a path of being a dick on the field today. Then a dropped pick-six when it was 7-7. Can't spot Carolina 14 points like that, yet here they are in the last five minutes of a one-score game. The interesting thing about the blocked field goal was how close the Giants kept getting on the extra points today. It wasn't like Kam Chancellor in the playoffs jumping over the middle of the line either. This was off the edge every time.

Andrew Healy: Only saw it on replay, but on the play that forced the Panthers to punt to the Giants with it 35-28, it looked like Jason Pierre-Paul might have deflected the pass because of his giant cast. The upside of fireworks, I guess.

I loved lining up Odell Beckham in the slot to get him away from Norman. Big reception gets the Giants in the red zone. Feels like Scott's prediction could be where we're headed and that would fit with the 2007 Patriots' game against the Giants, but maybe the ghost of Kent Graham wants to see this comeback get completed.

Scott Kacsmar: It's more like 2011 Packers at Giants where Giants tied it at 35 late, then Aaron Rodgers led a one-minute drill for a 38-35 win. But this is one of the very few games in NFL history where a team erased a 28-point deficit. Think I have a table on that somewhere...

Aaron Schatz: Yep. Kent Graham gets his comeback. Odell Beckham catches the go-ahead touchdown after pulling a double-move on Josh Norman on the outside. I'm really curious how this game is going to be covered afterwards. Is the media going to criticize the Panthers for blowing the huge lead the way they criticized the Seahawks for blowing all those fourth-quarter leads earlier this season?

Giants are finally putting a spy on Newton on every play on this final drive. They want to make sure he doesn't get off and get big chunks of yards on his own.

And he does anyway. And that puts them in range for Graham Gano. 38-35 and the Panthers go to 14-0. Sigh. They couldn't just win big, could they?

Scott Kacsmar: There it is, 38-35. I have a table of 28-point comebacks here when the Colts beat the Chiefs in the playoffs two years ago. However, I'm pretty sure months later I found I was missing a game from like the 1940s involving the Redskins. So today is probably the 10th time a team has erased a deficit of 28-plus points, yet those teams are only 3-6-1 in the game. Even when you come all the way back, you still leave time for the other team to kick a field goal and beat you.

Buffalo Bills 25 at Washington Redskins 35

Scott Kacsmar: Those NFL Yearbook things NFL Films makes to recap a team's season just got some good footage if they want to show the disappointment of Buffalo's defense this season. Kirk Cousins scored a rushing touchdown on a third-and-goal that most certainly did not look like a designed run at all. Very slow-developing broken play, and Rex Ryan can't like that.

Cian Fahey: The Bills were on the Washington 1-yard line. They handed it off to LeSean McCoy for no gain before going to shotgun, asking Tyrod Taylor to throw a fade route to Sammy Watkins that he badly overthrew. I have no idea why they didn't run a quarterback sneak. It's not like they need to be scared of Taylor getting hit.

Between the alterations he has made to the Bills defense and EJ Manuel being brought in to run read-option plays on multiple occasions, today has not been a good day for Rex Ryan.

Andrew Potter: Jerry Hughes just whipped Trent Williams so badly that all Williams could do was attempt to rugby tackle Hughes from behind to prevent the sack. He failed, and Kirk Cousins barely avoided burial under the combined weight of both. Hilarious play for Buffalo's first sack of the day.

Atlanta Falcons 23 at Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Scott Kacsmar: Blake Bortles pulled a Kurt Warner (or similar to a Matt Ryan against Green Bay in 2010 playoffs) with a brutal pick before halftime with the Jaguars at the 1-yard line. Originally the clock ran out, but review showed there were two seconds left when the defender went down on the long return, so Atlanta was able to kick the field goal. Apparently there is a silly new rule this year where there has to be at least two seconds left for them to put time back on the clock at the end of a half. If there was one second left when the defender went down, the half would be over right now. What kind of logic is that? One second is still time to run a play.

Andrew Potter: By my quick child-interrupted maths, that's his sixth interception inside the last two minutes of either half, out of 14 total this year. He also had one just before the two-minute warning against Carolina, and one shoulda-been-pick dropped by a defensive back on the game-winning drive against Baltimore. I actually thought he had thrown more interceptions than that, but I have thought all year that he has a tendency to force throws that result in picks when trailing in two-minute drills. And I don't mean end-of-game desperation situations, but disastrous plays like that one against Atlanta, his previous red zone interception against Houston in Week 6, and the pick from his own 26 just before the half against San Diego that set up the Antonio Gates touchdown to make it 21-9.

Houston Texans 16 at Indianapolis Colts 10

Aaron Schatz: Houston's offense was moving the ball well on the first couple drives but turned the ball over twice, an interception and then a fumble. After that, things really shut down, and the Colts' special teams advantage over the Texans (32nd in DVOA) came to the fore. The Colts were moving the ball, even if they didn't score, good punt returns and a couple first downs were flipping field position. Colts started three straight drives on the Houston 42, 47, and 35. That got them 10 points.

Texans finally move the ball again on the next drive when Alfred Blue gets into a big open space out of a six-lineman set and goes 41 yards. But then it bogs down and for some reason Bill O'Brien decides to give Nick Novak a shot at a 59-yard field goal. That's way wide right, and Colts will get it on their next drive at... their own 47. So hey, at least this time the drive starts on the Colts' own side of the field... by 3 yards. Which Frank Gore makes up on his first run.

T.J. Yates goes down with a non-contact knee injury with 1:08 left in the second quarter. Brandon Weeden is now the quarterback of the Houston Texans. The emergency quarterback is Shane Lechler. This can't end well.

Matt Hasselbeck is really off with the receivers today, lots of miscommunication. Would be interesting to go back and see if we chart more miscommunication incompletes when a quarterback is limited in practice during the week or a backup quarterback comes in midgame.

Andrew Healy: Strange split for Jaelen Strong, the rookie receiver Playmaker Score sort of liked:

  • Two games vs. IND: 4 targets, 4 catches, 76 yards, 3 TD
  • Six other games: 8 targets, 2 catches, 11 yards, 0 TD

Aaron Schatz: Chuck Pagano just threw the challenge flag on a DeAndre Hopkins catch for a first down that was obviously a catch on replay -- I have no idea what Pagano was thinking or what people were telling him. Just a horrible challenge, not like the Colts might need that lost timeout since there's less than five minutes left and they're down by 3.

Andrew Healy: That is certainly fitting a larger pattern for him of incompetence in all dimensions. Seems like a very nice guy, but he has done everything wrong that we can make clear judgments on this year.

Aaron Schatz: Griff Whalen gets stripped after a catch and Houston gets the ball back already in field goal range. Time for one of those great strategic debates. Is it better for the Texans that they kicked a field goal and went up 16-10, or would it have been better for them to go for it on fourth-and-3 from the Indianapolis 14 and try to keep the ball for more time? The Colts now can be aggressive and go for the touchdown, but it's not like their offense is playing well. It's going to be lousy whether they are aggressive or conservative. One thing I do know -- things would be better for them if they got the ball back with a timeout and 1:50 left instead of no timeouts and 1:50 left.

Oh, and on the first play, Matt Hasselbeck launches the ball downfield... to nobody? To T.Y. Hilton? Donte Moncrief? Apparently Hasselbeck thought Hilton was running a go and instead he ran a flag? There's the miscommunication again. And the Texans will win.

Andrew Healy: Most definitely on the timeout lost on the challenge, but given that it was a hobbled Hasselbeck, who had come out earlier after a scary-looking how-is-that-not-a-concussion? hit, I think kicking the field goal is OK there.

Tom Gower: All the reports I saw on this game, and the few glimpses I got of the first three-plus quarters, said this was mostly about troubled, misfiring offenses rather than strong defensive performances. That was what happened late, between Griff Whalen's fumble and Matt Hasselbeck's awful deep pass that created the game-ending interception.

Tennessee Titans 16 at New England Patriots 33

Sterling Xie: Comical moment in this game (if you're a Pats fan, I guess): CBS cameras get super faked out by what was supposed to be a deep Marcus Mariota pass. But Chandler Jones knocked the ball out of Mariota's hand before it was thrown, and Akiem Hicks finished things off for the scoop and score to put the Pats up 14-0. Jones hasn't gotten a sack in four games, but he has made disruptive plays like that to compensate (believe he also had a forced fumble against Denver). And Hicks, who had a sack earlier today, has been an underrated midseason trade acquisition from New Orleans. Pats gave up Michael Hoomanawanui, who may have been cut anyways given that he was a healthy scratch in the weeks before the trade.

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots brought fullback Joey Iosefa off their practice squad this week and he just got a 15-yard run, because of course he did. Extra 10 yards after completely destroying Coty Sensabaugh by just shoving him down with his right shoulder.

Tom Gower: 24-3 at the half, as Stephen Gostkowski misses a 48-yard field goal attempt to give the Patriots just one score after the two-minute warning instead of two. The Titans' run game has been a little bit more effective than I thought it would be, and much better than their miserable showing last week (one successful run on 11 carries, DVOA of like -71%), but aside from that this is the kind of annihilation you'd mostly expect. The Titans' good defensive front seven players -- by which I mean primarily Jurrell Casey and Brian Orakpo -- have been effective at times, but the secondary players have not been. Pass protection has mostly been lousy, including an unblocked Jamie Collins sack where Marcus Mariota suffered a knee injury. It has been since the 2008 Week 17 seedings-locked Colts game that I have mostly bailed on a Titans game at halftime, but I'm considering it right now.

Vince Verhei: Travel plans were going to limit my viewing options today anyway, and then some dunderhead at the Spokane CBS affiliate decided that Titans-Pats should be the only game on TV today. Did they think there would be enough Oregon fans wanting to watch Marcus Mariota lose in a blowout that they would stay tuned to the TV? On Star Wars weekend with everyone doing holiday stuff? Idiots.

So I don't have a lot specific to say about this game. I can jump in on the cornerback debate and say that yes, a No. 1 cornerback should be able to move into the slot if that's what it takes to follow the opposing team's top wideout. Richard Sherman does it all the time for Seattle now. And if your nickel corner is the only guy who is that good in coverage, then he should be the No. 1 corner anyway.

Zach Mettenberger throws an interception. Guy in the bar here calls him "Mecklenberg." Because Denver linebackers from prior decades are more well known than Tennessee's backup quarterback. Bar then turns to the Seahawks' local pregame show. Because still more talk about Mike Pettine's opinion of Russell Wilson is in fact more interesting than the Patriots game. I have to leave before the Seahawks game actually starts, so my football watching today consisted of maybe three dozen snaps of a total blowout that we all knew would be a total blowout.

Andrew Healy: Zach Mettenberger throws a brutal pass down the right sideline that Malcolm Butler picks off for one of the easiest interceptions of the season, keeping it 27-10 Patriots. If you didn't already close the book on Mettenberger as a prospect with any potential at all, it's time.

Tom Gower: Word that best describes the second half: somnambulant. Delanie Walker had a long touchdown where he broke a couple tackles, Zach Mettenberger had some 50-50 balls caught and some thrown to defenders, and the Pats didn't do much of note. The only excitement would be whether the Titans would cover the spread of about 14 points. After Walker's touchdown made it 27-16, I thought they might, but two more Gostkowski field goals meant they did not.

Cleveland Browns 13 at Seattle Seahawks 30

Scott Kacsmar: I haven't had an opportunity to write much about Seattle in recent weeks, so sharing a few thoughts here. This was easily one of the most disappointing offenses in the league through nine games. With the additions of Tyler Lockett and Jimmy Graham, this offense was poised to have a huge year. They seemed to have everything you need to attack the defense at every level of the field, especially in the red zone with Graham's size and Marshawn Lynch's physical runs. Yeah, the offensive line was a concern, but that has been the case for Russell Wilson over the years. But for nine games this offense struggled just to put 21 points on the board. Wilson had one game (Week 2 in Green Bay) with multiple touchdown passes. They dropped to 4-5 with Wilson having a tough game with Arizona, but then everything changed. Now Wilson has just put together one of the greatest five-game stretches in NFL history, with Graham and Lynch absent for most of it. We can certainly question the caliber of the opponents in those games, but it's not like that wasn't the case in some of the earlier games this season where the offense struggled.

I'll be sure to go back and watch them more closely in the coming weeks, but my general feeling is that the protection has been much better, allowing for Wilson to operate from the pocket and make accurate throws instead of running for his life. The aforementioned competition helps, but 19 touchdowns in five games is absurd. I've always been a big fan of Doug Baldwin's game, but he is scoring touchdowns at a 1987 Jerry Rice clip. I guess one explanation could be that Seattle was never as bad as it seemed in the first nine games, and the offense has just been hitting on some of the plays it missed earlier in the season. But I'm not sure that's the most accurate way to describe this offense. What they are doing lately has really been phenomenal.

Vince Verhei: I talked about how Seattle's improvement coincided with a shift on the offensive line a few weeks ago.

Cincinnati Bengals 24 at San Francisco 49ers 14

Rob Weintraub: If A.J. McCarron breaks the 'Bama curse today it will be by default. He can't make any plays and the box is stacked nine deep to stop the run. But the Bengals lead thanks to Carlos Dunlap, who made a tremendous strip tackle and set up Cincy inside the Niners' 15. It was like pulling teeth for Jeremy Hill to finally brush the ball over the goal line (proven on replay -- on the field he was ruled short). 7-0 Cincy late first half.

If Jim Tomsula loses his job, replay challenges won't be the reason why. But he has blown a couple in this game. He should have challenged Dunlap's fumble recovery. It was clearly a fumble but it looked like Dunlap was touched on the ground. But he let it go and the Bengals got 20 key return yards. Next he challenged a clear-cut Marvin Jones catch inside the 20. Poor decision-making times two.

A Vontaze Burfict sack and a poor punt sets up another short field for Cincy, and Jeremy Hill bangs in another short touchdown to make it 14-0. Guess who leads the NFL in rushing touchdowns? That's right, Jeremy Hill. I would never have guessed that either, and I've seen them all.

Aaron Schatz: I own Jeremy Hill in a fantasy league and I definitely would not believe that. He has been a fantasy nightmare of weekly inconsistency this year.

Scott Kacsmar: Hill's touchdowns have come in bunches. He has had a terrible season, but I swear every time I really argue with someone to not play him in fantasy, he has a multi-touchdown game.

Rob Weintraub: The Bengals should send a game check to 49ers tight and Vance McDonald. For the second time in this game a pass clangs off his hands and is intercepted by Cincy. This time it was Burfict with the diving pick. Then McCarron finds rookie tight end Tyler Kroft, playing for Tyler Eifert, for a touchdown. Same play Cincy uses in the red zone to Eifert all the time -- load the line left in heavy formation, fake an option run that way to draw the safety up, tight end releases right past him for an easy six. As expected, the Niners are making it easy for McCarron.

Cincinnati's three touchdown drives in the first half totaled 67 yards. They take the opening kickoff and drive it longer than that for a field goal to make it 24-0. The key play a nice long pass from McCarron to Marvin Jones. Good inside technique by the receiver and McCarron put it where he could get it. I will say this for the Niners: NaVorro Bowman is having a spectacular game despite the score. He's everywhere. Cincy's guards can't touch him on pull plays and he gets to the edge almost every sweep. Cincinnati can't run it at all because of him.

Cian Fahey: No surprise that the Bengals are surviving with A.J. McCarron under center. Even considering the opposition, it's a testament to how that offense is the most "plug-and-play" in terms of quarterbacks across the league. Exceptional levels of talent and a simplified scheme.

Rob Weintraub: Nothing plug-and-play about this offense today. Can't move it all against poor Niners D. True, Eifert out and Green jogged through a half before retiring with a back injury, but alleged "talent" not doing much of anything, especially up front. McCarron struggling against blitzes and getting ball out fast, which is to be expected. But even when he has time there is nowhere to go with the ball, and unlike Dalton he's not experienced enough to change blocking assignments at the line.

Cincy defense, on the other hand, is dominating the game.

Meanwhile the Niners have scored and recovered an onside kick and are inside the Bengals' 30 with two minutes left down 10. Cannot believe I'm having to sweat this one out.

Whoops, never mind. On the first play after the two-minute warning, Shawn Williams intercepts Blaine Gabbert to -- maybe? hopefully? -- ice this one.

With the victory Cincinnati has clinched a playoff berth for the fifth straight year, and six out of the last seven. A pretty darn good achievement, regardless of postseason follies.

But unless McCarron somehow improves dramatically, they have little shot at beating Denver. Looking mightily like the dread scenario is afoot -- Pittsburgh at Cincy in Round 1. With or without Dalton, that's a nightmare.

Miami Dolphins 14 at San Diego Chargers 30

Scott Kacsmar: Think we're just going to pretend this game never happened.

Tom Gower: What a coincidence, so are the Dolphins, judging by the first-half scoreline.

Denver Broncos 27 at Pittsburgh Steelers 34

Scott Kacsmar: Brock Osweiler had one of his best drives of the season, and I don't mean the obligatory blown coverage in the Pittsburgh secondary that left Emmanuel Sanders wide open for a long touchdown. On the previous drive, Osweiler was very accurate and throwing the ball beyond 10 yards. Denver has to feel very good about scoring 14 in the first quarter after the recent drought from the offense. Ben Roethlisberger has already been sacked and intercepted, so Denver has brought the defense even if both starting safeties are out.

Aaron Schatz: So many coverage breakdowns by the Steelers defense today, which had been playing pretty well most of the year. It's like we have gone back in time to Week 1 when they were all looking at each other on the field like "oh, I thought you were supposed to be covering Gronk."

Scott Kacsmar: The Broncos have nearly squeezed their best offensive game of the season into one half. Steelers just have no answers for anything here. Ronnie Hillman looks good after his early fumble. Osweiler's first read is pretty much open on every play. And oddly enough, Osweiler is headed to the locker room and not moving that left arm. The plot thickens, but even a no-name third-string quarterback might be able to hit throws against this lack of coverage.

Tom Gower: Quite a first half from Brock Osweiler and the Broncos offense after looking almost completely lost most of the second half of last week's disappointing loss to Oakland. He's getting the ball out quickly, moving around well, and finding open receivers. That the Steelers don't have a pass rusher like Khalil Mack is part of it, but of course not many teams do. This really does look like a game where Gary Kubiak has schemed everything up right, and it's allowing a lot of success. First time since, oh, Week 8 against the Packers I've thought Denver looked really good on offense.

Scott Kacsmar: Third quarter over in Pittsburgh with the Broncos ahead 27-20, but the Steelers about to get the ball back. Hard to say if the left shoulder is limiting Osweiler at all, but that was a very impotent quarter from the offense. The big thing was 0-for-3 on third down after starting 8-for-8 in the first half. For the Steelers, they flat-out abandoned the run today, which might be a little surprising against Denver, but the receivers are making plays. Martavis Bryant has had some trouble with Aqib Talib, but he showed good hands on a ball that he kept away from Talib. Antonio Brown is just showing why he's very arguably the best in the game today. Broke Chris Harris' no-touchdown streak and he's up to 11 catches for 121 yards.

Aaron Schatz: I think a lot of what the Steelers have done to get the offense going in the third quarter is complete short passes in front of Harris, rather than trying to go deep on him. Lots of 5-yard hooks to Brown, and so forth. As for the Pittsburgh defense, it's getting better pass rush in the second half, and better run defense. I can't tell if the coverage is better too, or it's just the improved pass rush. But even on the biggest play of the third quarter for Denver, a deep bomb to Emmanuel Sanders down the right sideline, Ross Cockrell was playing pretty good coverage. Osweiler just dropped it into the bucket over Sanders' shoulder with very nice touch on the ball.

Sterling Xie: Vernon Davis with another killer drop down the seam for the second straight week. Broncos are now remarkably 0-for-6 on third downs after converting their first eight. I haven't seen enough of the game to know if Osweiler's health is part of the reason for that, but nothing wrong with that last throw.

Aaron Schatz: I agree with Sterling. It doesn't look like Osweiler is particularly hurt. There's just more pass rush and better coverage from Pittsburgh.

So, do we now get to debate whether Pittsburgh made a huge mistake by calling a pass play on second-and-10 with 2:08 left? I know they wanted to just ice the game by getting a first down, and they haven't gotten anything on the ground against Denver all day. I think the bigger problem isn't the play call, but the fact that Roethlisberger threw an awful pass against his body and behind the intended receiver, DeAngelo Williams. I know they don't want to stop the clock but at that point, the play didn't work, it probably made sense to throw the ball away... or even better, to scramble or take a sack to keep the clock running.

Broncos can't get anything in four tries once they get the ball, so I suppose the debate doesn't matter anyway, Steelers will try to run out the rest of the clock now although Denver may get it back with a few seconds left.

Tom Gower: And second-half Brock Osweiler looked a lot like last week's Brock Osweiler. Or the Osweiler from the second half of the Chargers game. And we learn, once again, that even really, really good NFL defenses have trouble keeping up with really, really good NFL offenses.

Scott Kacsmar: The Steelers were right to throw on the play Ben screwed up with that terrible pick. But why not run your offense and do what you do best? They went with play-action out of a big formation with limited options. Go shotgun with your three wideouts and Heath Miller. Teams are always trying to be what they aren't in the four-minute offense. Again, horrible decision by Roethlisberger, but throwing was the right call. And they did it again later in a less obvious situation to put the game away. An incompletion there would have saved Denver 40 huge seconds, so good job to get that 40th completion of the day to ice it.

Pretty amazing that Denver went scoreless in the second half for the third week in a row, and against some pretty weak defenses too (Chargers, Raiders). Kubiak not making adjustments? Osweiler's lack of experience hurting? Vernon Davis turning into Todd Pinkston hasn't helped, but they were on fire in this game and just did almost nothing after the half.

Arizona Cardinals 40 at Philadelphia Eagles 17

Sterling Xie: Eric Rowe is in the locker room with a head injury and Byron Maxwell has left the game twice with injuries. You can tell the Cardinals are trying to go after E.J. Biggers now, who is being forced to play every down. John Brown has arguably had three drops, including one on the first play that may have gone for a touchdown. Feels like the Cards are on the verge of breaking through, but Eagles doing just enough to keep Carson Palmer at bay.

Cian Fahey: NBC making way too much of this time of possession stuff as usual. It's really just about filling time because it's neither interesting nor as important as they suggest it is.

There's a clear difference in Sam Bradford since he came back from injury. It's a similar change that came the last time he returned from an ACL injury into the regular season. His passes were dying early in the year (a mechanical issue with not trusting his knee) but now they are being thrown with much more authority. What stood out most with Bradford when he was healthy in St. Louis was his ball placement. We should see more of that moving forward.

Aaron Schatz: I know that our research shows that you can't really find specific running backs who convert short-yardage more often on a consistent, year-after-year basis. But I'll agree with Michaels and Collinsworth that it was really strange for Philadelphia to leave DeMarco Murray on the sideline for a fourth-and-1 near the goal line. It was also strange to run outside without anyone to block the cornerback who was sitting on that side, so was it a big shock that Ryan Mathews got dumped for a loss?

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 21 Dec 2015

153 comments, Last at 23 Dec 2015, 10:41am by FlippingADollar


by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 11:47am

Odell Beckham Jr: #horrible man

never saw nfl player that bad in game. have seen head stomp by hayensworth but that was one paly and out he went . saw suh do something dangerous and get ejhected. but never saw guy get away with so much in what should ahev been clear view of olfficials and get away with a lot before finally getting flagged. then did most dangerous act of day (using helmet and projecting slef as missile to head of opponent) and still wa snot ejected.

think 1-game suspension si fair and better happen or nfl going to show another sign of hypocrisy and lose mrioe respect.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:14pm

Agreed. The NFL can show they're serious about player safety by suspending him. There's no way to argue that he wasn't using his helmet as a weapon, unlike hits to WRs, which could be argued that the play happens so fast.

by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:27pm

If the NFL is serious about player safety*, Beckham should be suspended at least 4 games. Yes that's a lot in terms of percentage of NFL games, but honestly, I don't think that matters here. If that happens in baseball (ie pitching throwing at a guys head), he's missing 5-10 games if not more if he actually hits the batter. If that happens in hockey, and it did for a long time, that player is sitting for 25 games maybe even more (Raffi Torres got 41 games for a elbow to the head).

But the NFL will give Beckham a slight slap on the wrist, maybe a game. And will have outrage about how it was a "football play" and "football players should not be punished for football plays!". Meanwhile, the Beckham cheap shot is the exact reason why the NFL and football in general is in such trouble.

*Hint: they aren't and most fans aren't either sadly.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:44pm

1 game in football is about the same amount of the season as 10 games in baseball.

It's actually probably a greater percentage of the season compared to a pitcher.

by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:19pm

A starter makes about 32/33 starts, so two games would be the same as one game in the NFL.

I don't think the NFL only playing 16 games should matter here. Four games, at least, should be the suspension for Beckham. At some point the league has to get serious about head injuries, this might be a good place to start.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:23pm

I assume when a pitcher is suspended it's for x number of games and not x number of would be starts.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 3:59pm

Correct. Suspensions are generally five or ten games, so what you'll do is see a pitcher appeal the suspension, then drop it immediately following a start, so that instead of missing two scheduled starts, they miss one.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:24pm

Starters only start once every 5 or so games though - so in order to suspend them for 2 real games, you have to have a 12 or so game suspension.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:41pm

The refs not ejecting Beckham is just as egregious as the kinds of clock errors that got refs dinged and demoted earlier this year. They completely failed to even attempt to keep control of that game, and he deserves a multi-game suspension for that. Linebackers get suspended for hitting WRs in the head on a crossing pattern, but you can at least understand there's some "heat of the moment" aspect of doing that. Beckham specifically headhunted somebody in what was clearly intent to harm. That's one of the singly cheapest plays I've ever seen.

by Dired :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:44pm

It's hard not to think that his being the best player on the team (and thus the most likely to change the game by his absence) was a consideration. To TV viewers, he got star treatment, obvious star treatment, and the refs look awful as a result.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 2:42pm

The best player, on the most popular team, in the #1 TV market in America, with an outside shot at the playoffs. Yeah, I'll be surprised if he gets the punishment he deserves.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by duh :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 3:07pm

I'll be surprised if he doesn't get the punishment he deserves. I suspect that failure to do so will come back to haunt them legally in other cases and they will be careful to guard against that. If you turn out to be right then Goodell really should be fired by the owners for not protecting their interests.

by brenthutto :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 3:23pm

Any suspension wouldn't be until next season anyway, given the appeal process and all that.

I started to say "until next season or maybe the playoffs" but I'm afraid my assessment of the Giants playoff hopes are Mora-esque at best.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 4:12pm

Beckham would be well-advised to simply take a 1-game suspension right away if it's handed down. The Giants have pretty much no shot of making the playoffs. They need to win both of their games while Philly and Dallas both beat the Redskins.

If they'd won yesterday...

by Dr. Bill :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 4:18pm

May I take a moment as a linguist to express my pleasure and admiration for raiderjoe's talk? He consistently violates rules of grammaticality, and yet we know exactly what he means--his linguistic performance is in it's own way admirably skillful. He's basically a big "FU" to every normative, a priori linguistic idea still floating in the wake of Chomsky.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 5:09pm

It always reminds of Rorschach in Watchmen, if Rorschach were unstable orthographically instead of mentally.

by Dr. Bill :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 4:21pm


by Rocco :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 11:56am

Antwon Blake gets benched in the second half and the Steelers defense looks competent. Better late than never.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:25pm

Noticed Boykin was getting more time on camera. I assumed that meant Blake was off the field. Hare to tell though, because when Blake covers someone who gets a pass, he's usually out of the frame anyway.

Sometimes you can see him bounce off the guy he's sort of kinda trying to tackle.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:01pm

I would seriously believe they might be better playing 10 men than to put him on the field.

The standard is the standard!

by mshray63 :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 11:59am

The announcers decided that the color of the Ravens pants was 'mustard'. I thought it was closer to 'bile'. Calling them 'gold' would be an insult to gold.

de gustibus non disputandem est

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:43pm

I thought for a moment the pants were really ugly until I remembered Jacksonville's Color Rush uniforms a few weeks back were pretty much that color, but from head to toe. Then Baltimore didn't seem so bad.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:13pm

The color rush uniforms are awful. I am not sure which are the worst, but my TV almost blew up trying to display the colors in the Rams, Bucs game on Thursday

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:17pm

I thought the Bucs-Rams had the best uniforms of any of the four Color Rush games. And they were still terrible.

If the Bucs would stick with those jerseys and throw in different-colored pants, I'd actually dig those uniforms; they're just less busy than the current ones with the splashes of orange and such. Extra bonus; the fact the numbers were in silver on scarlet jerseys meant it was harder to see the numbers, which meant there was less attention to the godawful alarm clock font.

by ncuba :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 6:17pm

Bills-Jets color rush as Xmas eve game would have been tight.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:00pm

Beckham torpedo shot to the head is perhaps the most disgusting play I've ever seen in a football game. Hell it ranks up there with things I've seen in a hockey game (baseball swings to the head with a stick).

I wonder from a scientific perspective - is what Beckham did more dangerous than swinging a stick at a players head in a hockey game?

Personally, I think he deserves a suspension more severe than any handed out for such transgressions.

by Kevin from Philly :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:28pm

Maybe not more dangerous, but certainly dumber. You can't knock yourself out swinging a hockey stick at somebody, but you can slamming your own head into someone.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 4:14pm

I'm pretty sure smacking a player with a hockey stick will do more damage. Because torque.

by Led :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:00pm

Buf v. Was is the game of the interestingly underrated QBs. Cousins now has over 700 pass attempts of above average QBing over the last two years. The guy is a solid if not spectacular QB and we all need to get used to it. And Taylor is 6th in passing DVOA in addition to his skills a runner, and yet nobody seems to be talking about it. I know once the Ravens won the SB with Flacco, he became "elite" (TM) and untouchable but the team might have been better off with Taylor at a much cheaper price.

"The Steelers were right to throw on the play Ben screwed up with that terrible pick."

Why? Run it three times and, if you don't get a first down, you force the team that had done nothing the entire second half to drive 80ish yards with no timeouts to score a TD in around a minute 30. Is there a long list of examples where that strategy failed against QBs not named Manning/Brady/Rogers/Brees? Just because something is conventional wisdom does not necessarily mean it is wrong.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:03pm

I generally agree with you on Taylor, but I wonder if there is a shelf life for quarterbacks in Greg Roman's system. Kaepernick looked awesome his first couple of years as well. Taylor's success makes Buffalo's struggles even more disappointing; Rex finally has a qb, and he still blows the playoffs.

As far as the endgame in the Steelers/Broncos game, the Steeler did the same thing against the Jets in the AFC championship game 5 years ago. Opposing quarterback: Mark Sanchez. Granted, the game situation was different; the Jets were the team coming back from a large deficit, and the Steelers offense had done nothing in the second half, but it worked out for Ben that time.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 2:59pm

I dunno about Taylor having a shelf life - the things he's good at (escapability, throwing outside the numbers and a very pretty deep ball) are not really the same as what Kaep was bringing to the table. If Bills fans had their heads screwed on correctly (yea, I know), they'd be thrilled to get this from a first year starter instead of going after him with pitchforks and torches.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 3:08pm

I remember Bills fans hoping that their first-round pick EJ Manuel could become their Russell Wilson, and instead finds that guy in free agency.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 3:29pm

It's more that I'm wondering if Roman's system helps quarterbacks starting out, and then they don't progress. Not sure if Taylor is just a one read guy, but he does take too many sacks. I've been impressed with him so far this year too. I doubt Bills fans will go after Taylor with pitchforks, they haven't burned the stadium down yet and the Bills haven't made the playoffs in 15-16 years. Jets fans would have employed a tactical nuke by now.

by Mike B. In Va :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 9:15am

Bills fans are already clamoring for a replacement for Taylor. Seriously. He does take too many sacks, but doesn't throw INTs, which is what really kills you in this kind of run-first and throw deep mentality.

Replace Ryan? Maybe, although I think that's foolish, even with the issues I have with him. No way you punt on Taylor at this point, though. If you had Taylor's play (instead of the desiccated corpse of Kyle Orton) with last years' defense this is a playoff team. As it is, the offense is carrying the expensive defense.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 4:50pm

on the ending strategy - I'm in favor of throwing. With a great qb, typically you expect an incompletion at worst(though not in this case) - and the best case is the game is over. Sure, maybe the d holds on to stop denver, but that's a very different result than a sure fire end game when you pick up that first down.

by rageon :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:04pm

For all the talk of Beckham, I thought the head-first dive into a Denver player by the Pittsburgh lineman (Wallace?) was just as bad.

Chris Harris is a great player, probably a top 5-10 CB, and he just got abused yesterday. Brown is just incredible.

Demaryius Thomas with the drops too...again.

by Led :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:11pm

That post-whistle spear job by the Steelers lineman was awful. If that doesn't result in a suspension or very large fine I will be disappointed.

by lokiwi :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:27pm

It was Wallace with the spear on Bruton. Thought it was worse than the Beckham hit because he had more of a running start and hit him straight on.

And Thomas' drops are an epidemic. The passing game is becoming really Sanders-centric because they can't trust Demaryius to make a catch.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:09pm

Bridgewater was 2 drops and a batted ball at the line away of going 20 for 20 yesterday.

Mike Tanier summed up my thoughts about the Vikings perfectly in his Monday Morning Hangover piece

The "Adrian Peterson Serenity Prayer" reads: "Lord, give me the serenity to design a game plan that does not focus completely on Peterson, the courage to stick to my guns when Peterson complains and the wisdom to know how much Peterson is just enough Peterson."

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:15pm

Loved that part of Tanier's column, as well.

by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:31pm

I couldn't tell if Bridgewater was great yesterday or if the Bears are already thinking about the off season... the Bears were horrible yesterday. Vikings took care of business, no messing around, which is good to see.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:42pm

I think you could just answer "yes"; Bridgewater was great, largely because the Bears defense was asleep. It was a chance for him to throw the ball without three rushers in his face. The Vikings pass protection this year could charitably be described as "notably bad turnstiles", and, yesterday, he didn't seem to be pressured at all.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:46pm

I could only watch the game until halftime, but the game was 10-7 at that point. I don't think the Bears packed it in. I think they're just bad.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:50pm

Yes, very strangely, giving too many touches to Adrian Peterson didn't appear to be the problem against the Seahawks! The quality of the opposition might, just maybe, have something to do with the efficacy of a gameplan.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:57pm

Eh, I love Tanier but I'll repost my response to that analysis...

The focus on the Vikings gameplanning is kinda' dumb. This just in: when the Vikings play a poor defense, and the Vikings defense plays ok (the latter has occurred in 11 of 14 games), then the Vikings offense functions pretty well. All those who think that gameplanning is a real impediment seem to have not noticed that Peterson didn't get many touches against the Seahawks.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:21pm

there's truth to that. But there is also truth to the fact that the Vikings have been far more effective throwing on first down than running. It seems sensible to me that the Vikings need are more balanced strategy.

The last thing in the world you want this team to be doing on offence is throwing 3rd and long. Running Peterson first and second down on a regular basis against a decent defence almost guarantees that situation will come up frequently.

I like that they seem to be moving Bridgewater out of the pocket more.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:25pm

Sure, playcalling has non-trivial effect, like when playaction bootlegs really work well. I don't think the effect would be the same if Matt Asiata had been given Adrian Peterson's carries through 13 games. However, again, I would point to the Seahawks game as being illuminative of the notion that personnel quality easiy trumps gameplanning quality, in terms of how the outcomes of games are decided. When the Vikings defense gives up 30, and the Vikings offense can score 30, despite playing against an above average defense, then I'll know they've really turned a corner.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:32pm

I agree, I don't think you turn Minnesota's offence into Arizona's just by making different play calls.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:39pm

I also think the Vikings offense, given Bridgewater's strenghths, is better off playing a defense that, while being high quality, is more dependent on blitzes to get pressure. In other words, if they were to have some success n January, I'd rather they play Arizona again, than play Seattle again.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 2:08pm

agreed - Bridgewater faced the blitz 9 times yesterday. He threw 3 TDs and had a perfect 158.3 passer rating on those plays.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:39pm

I also think the Vikings offense, given Bridgewater's strenghths, is better off playing a defense that, while being high quality, is more dependent on blitzes to get pressure. In other words, if they were to have some success n January, I'd rather they play Arizona again, than play Seattle again.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 2:48pm

ditto... ... ditto. :)

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 2:53pm

Now Minnesota is going to win out and end up as the 3rd seed playing the 6th seed Seahawks.

by Tundrapaddy :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 4:17pm

I wonder if each of them (Seahawks and Vikings) will spend Week 17 watching each other's scoreboards and jockeying to get the coveted 5th seed?

by EricL :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 8:06pm

I'd be slightly concerned about heading to DC and playing on that crappy field.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 8:26pm

The last time the Seahawks played a wild card game at Washington there were three non-contact knee injuries. 1st, RG3, everyone forgets that on the play where his knee gave way there was no contact he just dove to the turf after his o-line went turnstile, 2nd, Chris Clemmons tore his ACL attempting to turn the corner on a pass rush, 3rd, Steven Hauschka strained the knee on his plant foot while kicking a field goal.

I'd much rather that Seahawks be a 6 seed traveling to Minnesota than a 5 seed traveling to Washington. My preferred outcome would be as a 5 seed traveling to Philadelphia.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by scraps :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 8:19am

"Everyone forgets"? To me, that's the most egregious example for the awfulness of the field. I hope everyone remembers!

Back at Field Gulls, I've been worried about playing at Washington for several weeks. I remember Wilson nearly going down with a non-contact injury to his leg, too. I wish the NFL could crack down on that field.

by Tundrapaddy :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 4:15pm

'The last thing in the world you want this team to be doing on offence is throwing 3rd and long. Running Peterson first and second down on a regular basis against a decent defence almost guarantees that situation will come up frequently.'

I don't know - I think I like the fact that the Vikings are willing to give themselves a significant handicap by basically saying 'Hey, let's try to get 10 yards with only 1-2 downs, instead of 3!'.

Everyone and their uncle now expects the Vikes to run on 1st down. Hey, I wonder if there's a way that The Norv could use that fact to their advantage!

They passed on 1st down 3 times in the first half. Three times - and two of those were on the same drive, approaching or after the 2-minute warning. 2 of the 3 were 'successful' plays (7 yards, no gain, 34 yards).

Maybe they can stop constantly slamming the still-talented (but aging and increasingly prone to wear and tear) RB into a wall of man-flesh?

by TomC :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 5:40pm

I'm confused as to whether I am supposed to interpret Tanier's comment (and the intent of those repeating it) to mean that a better gameplan yesterday led to Bridgewater's success, or that Bridgewater's success indicates that they should run Peterson less? If the former, then I completely disagree. As Tundrapaddy points out, they ran on first down almost every time yesterday. And they were successful on those runs 6 out of 18 times. Bridgewater had lots of 2nd- and 3rd-and-longs, and he was very successful converting on them. Whether that's because the Bears are awful or because Bridgewater had a great day, it wasn't because his coaches had stopped loving the run game.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:10pm

Beckham was terrible - but my real big issue was with the refs - that sort of thing escalates because they let it. Beckham was called for 3 personal fouls, but it should have been more - they need to make it clear that if you're going to play like that, it's going to cost you a lot of yards. Make the coach pull him and say "Stop the shit, it's going to cost us the game"

@rageon - Sanders is ridiculous.

by brenthutto :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:47pm

I can only wonder if the officials' refusal to eject Beckham was simple fecklessness and ineptitude or if they looked the other way solely because it was the most popular player on one of the most-popular teams in the league.

My feeling at the time, watching the whole mess unfold in real time, was that if it were a nobody like Reuben Randle or Ted Ginn going postal after the whistle even the typically incompetent NFL officiating crew would have ejected the offender and right quickly.

Or for that matter what if Josh Norman were the one blind-side head-smashing Beckham. What are the odds he would have remained in the game? Somewhere between zero and none, am I right?

There's also a possibility that the "narrative" effect was in play. The officials could well have bought into the whole "Giants Spoil Another Undefeated Season" story that had basically been already written before the game even kicked off.

Final bonus theory. I very much suspect that the officials find Josh Norman annoying and troublesome on a weekly basis. He seems kind of like Steve Smith Senior's less clever and quoteworthy little brother.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:47pm

I think NFL refs are very reluctant to eject anyone for a myriad of reasons. I mean usually there's about what? Single digit ejections all year?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:55pm

Jimmy Johnson said after the game that he's convinced a non star would have been ejected. If a defensive player did that to a star qb, Goodell would attempt to have Homneland Security and ICE deport the player to Syria.

by flyerhawk :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:37pm

I wanted to comment on the points made about corners not coming to the slot. It isn't just about covering the field versus the sideline. It's also about the fact that an outside corner is far more exposed than a slot corner. A slot corner has linebacker and safety help in a way that the outside corners simply don't.

There is a reason why the elite WRs all play the vast majority of their snaps on the outside, usually on the QBs strong side.

You keep a guy like Norman on the outside because bringing him inside exposes the outside far worse than keeping him on the outside and having the slot corner take on a guy like Beckham.

OTOH, the Giants don't want to waste a guy like Beckham in the slot because it considerably lessens his big play ability.

There is a reason why top corners almost always play on the left side.

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:02pm

Piggybacking on this - I find it hard to believe that NFL coaches view a cornerback as their "number 1 corner". That kind of term feels like pointless media commentary. Each player on a football field has certain strengths and weaknesses. Coaches (ideally) try to put those players in positions where their strengths are utilized and their weaknesses are minimized. A taller player who doesn't have quick hips may be able to cover AJ Green one week, but his shorter, quicker teammate may cover Antonia Bryant the next.

"Number 1 corners" are the guys who have a broad base of skills and excel in majority of them. That doesn't mean that they're without weaknesses. So the idea that a coach would just blindly say "this guy is our best corner" and then shove him anywhere on the field ignores all strategy and game planning. It's like saying "Eli Manning is the Giants best QB, so he should be able to run just as well as Cam Newton."

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:10pm

It really depends on the team. If you have Revis and you're Rex Ryan, you definitely have a #1 corner who follows the other team's best receiver wherever he goes.

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:24pm

I disagree. You have a hall of fame football player who does a million things really well. The distinction of "#1 corner" is meaningless if it only applies to the all-time greats. Besides an in-his-prime Revis (who has not existed for a few years), who else does this apply to in recent years? Maybe Peterson, but he's not anywhere near as effective. Not Sherman.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 2:52pm

Sherman has been shadowing the best WRs this year, with the DBs coach promoted to DC, and has been doing really well. He shut down Brown vs. the Steelers, though every other player on the Steelers O had a career day.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 4:53pm

I think scott brings up a more theoretical question - why is it assumed that receivers can interchangeably move between slot and outside and they're fine, but the same is not true for corners? Furthermore, at this stage, why not move your best players into the slot period. Slot production, both from a tight end perspective and receiver prospective producer higher dvoas than outside production. Despite facing more bodies in the middle of the field, those players are still inferior cover players and don't have the sideline. Or maybe its just an easier throw to make for a qb to go in the middle vs the outside.

Essentially go all in the slot the way NE does. Think about it. To run what ARI or Pitt run, you need to have a qb with top medium accuracy and some fine receivers. To run what NE does, or say the chiefs - you can essentially get away with it seemingly regardless who your receivers are.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 5:12pm

Well the insight about offense is how the air raid developed in the college game. My guess is the need to find players that can play without help on the outside on defense. It's not that outside player's talents won't translate to defending the slot, unless dealing with a man specialist that's going to be asked to play more zoneish concepts, it's that the outside man's skill set is harder to replace with a greater drop off.

For instance maybe your team is structured RCB #2, SLOTDB #3, LCB #1, but if you moved either outside men it might come out RCB #5, SLOTDB #2, LCB #1, or RCT #2, SLOTDB #1, LCB #5. Perhaps the slot talents are simply more fungible and the outside skill set more rare.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by Jerry :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 1:52am

None of what follows is meant to be derogatory to Richard Sherman.

Yeah, the Seahawks matched Sherman with Antonio Brown. Yeah, Brown didn't catch many balls. But the Steelers ended up with 450 yards of passing offense anyway. (And, no, those weren't "career days" for the other guys, except maybe statistically for Wheaton. They're that good.) Maybe one reason Brown was de-emphasized was that Ben didn't need to look his way, since the other receivers were continually available.

I happened to hear Mike Tomlin's pregame radio show that day, where he talked about how Ike Taylor would always want to be matched with the opponent's number 1 receiver. Tomlin's response would be "We can put you on Chad [Johnson], but do we want DeShea {Townshend] on T.J. [Houshmandzadeh]?"

If a team has one good receiver surrounded by a lot of flotsam and jetsam, it makes more sense to match a "No. 1 Corner" with him. In the broader picture, though, Antonio Brown may have been on Sherman Island. Or Richard Sherman may have found himself on Brown Island.

by gomer_rs :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 2:06am

As the overall depth at WR clearly favored the Steelers over the Seahawks in depth at DB, I can't believe I just typed that, Sherman was definitely on Brown island and not the other way around. Though, with Seattle's DBs I'd take that risk with any team in the NFL. Only the Steelers and Cardinals really have a chance cause concern with their ability to throw 2-3 deep threat #1 type WRs on the field at the same time.

And I'm not sure the D doesn't work against the Steelers too if they'd gotten any pressure on Ben.

Even last year in the SB it was when guys like Lane started to get injured that the Hawks had trouble.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by theslothook :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 3:56am

toss in avril getting injured and Kam being hurt.

Then again, the seahawks still didn't have answer for the short passing game. At this point, no one does. I'm getting close to convinced that the right combo of gronk, speed no huddle, and bunch formations can basically nullify anything you do on defense to stop that type of offense. Its essentially low risk high reward stuff.

by scraps :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 8:24am

Yep. The Sherman-haters have not admitted they were wrong, but at least they've mostly shut up.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:14pm

who is "Antonia Bryant"?

The standard is the standard!

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:21pm

A mixture of an ex-girlfriend and 1st round draft bust. Antonio Brown - apologies for the typo.

by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 12:40pm

I know way too much has been said about the NFC East, but it's amazing how bad that division has become.
-Chip Kelly's dismantling of the Eagles is criminal and I can't see how Philly can bring him back at this point. That's a bad football team. And it's bad because he made them bad.
-Romo's injury exposed how poorly run the Cowboys have been over the last decade (which we all knew, but worth pointing out again).
-The Giants, with Romo out pretty much all year, are probably the best team in the division but they're also probably the worst coached team in the division so here we are.
-That leaves a meh Washington team who is probably going to win the division by default. And we all know that that might be the worst run franchise in the NFL.
Really bad personnel/management in the East.

That said... the NFC playoffs are really interesting, no? I know the Packers aren't so hot at the moment, but they've got Rodgers so it's silly to count them out. Then the Seahawks, Cards, and Panthers... it sure looks wide open.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:14pm

While I agree the Cowboys have been poorly run for a while, I don't think Romo's injury exposes much of that at all, except that Garrett may not be worthy of coaching that team. Knock Brady from the Pats for 10-12 games this year, the Pats might not be a playoff team, and that's the coach most likely to handle such a situation. Most teams in the NFL are doomed once their starting quarterback is knocked out for the season.

by pats-fan-in-nyc :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 2:25pm

I think if you swap out the Lewis/Edelman injuries for Brady, the Pats are in the hunt for a Wild Card spot. The Pats defense is pretty solid this year, and Belichick could gameplan away some of Jimmy G's deficiencies.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 3:11pm

Maybe, but in the hunt for a wild card spot is about where the Jets are, and they're probably going to miss the playoffs due to tiebreakers. Would you be that confident if the Pats were going to New York with the division on the line and starting Garoppolo, and loser misses out on the playoffs? Plus, Garoppolo's deficiencies as stated by Matt Waldman two years ago really match up badly with the AFC East (turtles under pressure, can't deal with interior pressure, etc). I have big doubts about him, as I did about Osweiler. Then again, I thought Geno Smith would work out eventually.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 4:19pm

"Plus, Garoppolo's deficiencies as stated by Matt Waldman two years ago really match up badly with the AFC East"

Presumably he's improved in the past two seasons. Few QBs are anywhere near their peak performance level as rookies.

by jtr :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 4:58pm

On the flip side, throwing under pressure is probably the most difficult thing for a QB to improve on without game reps. There really isn't anything that can simulate an angry 300 pound man bearing down on you with bad intentions when you're wearing the red jersey in practice.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 6:17pm

I was referencing this Matt Waldman column, which appeared before New England drafted Jimmy G: http://mattwaldmanrsp.com/2014/03/05/qb-jimmy-garoppolo-knockout/

To be honest, I thought Garoppolo was a good prospect until I read Waldman's take. Waldman believes this is an issue that rarely can be fixed at the NFL level; perhaps I'm agreeing with him because of my Jets bias/hopes/fears of another decade spent in the wild card hinterland if the Pats hit on another quarterback. Garoppolo did take a huge amount of sacks in one preseason game this year, but performed well in the next one. Another question is how big an issue this is; perhaps turtling under interior pressure will only become apparent in really big games, say against Denver's D in the AFC championship. I'm wondering if Garoppolo's ceiling is Danny White, which isn't the worst thing in the world.

by pats-fan-in-nyc :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 11:40pm

I wouldn't be confident at all. My point was simply that the Pats could lose Brady and not be the kind of tire fire Dallas is right now.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 11:51pm

I think "Jason Garret and Jerry Jones are not as good at coaching and GMing as Bill Bellichick" is probably widely agreed upon. Unless you think Bellichick is itching for a move to warmer climates, I'm just not sure how useful of an observation it is.

by mehllageman56 :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 12:24am

My point, which is the other side of the coin, is that the Pats are the team most able to deal with this because of coaching, and they still might miss the playoffs in that scenario. So we are on opposite sides of this issue, but separated only by inches. Agree to disagree. By the way, annoyed that yet another stupid scandal came up this week. Perhaps I should expect a 2007 style butt kicking on Sunday, that's par for the course when the media gets like this on the Pats.

by PirateFreedom :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 3:19pm

not having two QBs that can play well at the NFL level isn't such a damning indictment when we consider how many teams struggle to find one.

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:16pm

A great stat to come out of last night's game was that the Eagles had all of their starters available. It occurred to me that the Eagles haven't really had any terrible injuries - they've probably been one of the healthiest teams in the league (not sure if Adjusted Games Lost agrees).

That means this is the one of the best case scenarios for the Eagles this year. This is a near-peak version of the team that Chip Kelly envisioned. And they're still only barely mediocre.

by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:22pm

I think if you put the Eagles in any other division in the NFC, and they're a 6-10 team. That said, this is probably true of every team in the East, save maybe the Giants with better coaching.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:25pm

Lets not be hasty, they could very well be a 6-10 team in the NFCE.

by BJR :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 9:00pm

I'll have to challenge you here. If we are going to comment on this site we should at least consult its signature stats, which tell us the NFC East is not a terrible division, merely an average one. Before this week, NYG, WAS and PHI ranked #14, #17, #18 in total DVOA. Dallas ranks #26, and whilst I agree with the assessment of the management of that franchise, many would suffer a similar fate if their starting QB was lost for the season.

I'm as sick as every non-NFC East fan with the over-exposure and over-hype the teams in this division receive. But being objective, it can't be classed a 'bad' division. It's just a collection of average (and injury-ravaged) teams. Now if we want to highlight a truly terrible division, step forward, once again, the AFC South, where before this weekend every team ranked in the bottom 10 in DVOA.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 9:17pm

That the NFC East sucks was true three weeks ago, when they ranked 15th, 17th, 24th and 29th. Since then, they've had some pretty good games to nudge them back towards respectable.

by Kurt :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 3:45pm

"-The Giants, with Romo out pretty much all year, are probably the best team in the division but they're also probably the worst coached team in the division so here we are."

IMO this is exactly backwards. The Giants outside of Eli and Beckham have a terrible roster; no team in the league has overachieved relative to their talent more than the Giants have from minutes 1 to 58. If you want to put the last two minutes of their games all on bad coaching and not their awful defensive personnel that's fine, but with a different coaching staff I think they'd have been much more likely to be losing by double digits to Carolina, New England, NYJ, etc. than winning all those games.

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:05pm

Cian Fahey: NBC making way too much of this time of possession stuff as usual. It's really just about filling time because it's neither interesting nor as important as they suggest it is.

I would love to get some perspective on this from the defensive players who have to play 40 minutes a game. I bet that they view their exhaustion to be very important.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:10pm

Especially if the defnse doesn't have depth at pass rushing. The 4th quarter pass rush is second only to qb play, in terms of the key elements of winning a close game. I'd love to see an analysis of snap count of pass rushers, to 4th quarter pressures/sacks, correlation.

by Pottsville Maro... :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 2:04pm

Has FO (or anyone else) ever run a study that compares the effects of time of possession with the effects of number of plays run? It would seem to me, using common sense, that the number of plays run by an offense would be much more representative of how tired a defense is than the time of possession.

After all, an offense that runs 55 plays, 40 of which are runs and another 10 of which are completed passes, could very easily have a higher time of possession than an offense that runs 75 plays, 30 of which are incomplete passes or plays that end out of bounds. But I'd bet the defense facing the latter team would be more worn out.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 3:00pm

I think, though I do not remember where, maybe Grantland?, I read something like this from a college reporter. Basically, for most offenses time of possession is like running the football, it's an indicator that you're winning, not a strategy to win the game. When compared to yards per play allowed or yards per play a gained.

Occasionally you have a team like Navy or AF that wants to not match talent for talent and time of possesion is a big deal, Tebow Broncos *cough*, but for most teams it is not.

That said college uses much larger rosters and when Oregon first went blurr back in the 2000s with Dennis Dixon they platooned their D-line.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 5:10pm

Right. The Philadelphia offense having possession for 40 minutes is much different than, say, the Miami offense doing so.

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 2:30pm

I don't know, when I played football I found the offensive player got just as tired as the defensive players? Why would more plays preferentially hurt the defense? Both sides can make substitutions. Both sides of plays where they can coast a bit. It seems an odd position.

I suspect the whole effect is simply if an offense has had a lot of success (and thus a high TOP) it is likely to have more success.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 6:53pm

Defensive playershave to run to the ball with every snap in a way offensive players, especially offensive inemen, do not, and rushing the passer expends a lot more energy than blocking for the passer.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:14pm

What encouraged me most about the Vikings play (other than Bridgewater's accuracy, no matter the quality of the defense), was the indication that, especially if Joseph and Barr get healthy, the Vikings will have a very deep, high quality, rotation of defensive-linemen/pass rushers in January. Combine that with consistently good play in the defensive backfield, something that has rarely been the case in Minny for the past 35-plus years (Harrison Smith, feel free to get healthy, too!), and you have a dangerous defense.

by lokiwi :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:21pm

I am interested to see what they can do against the run with Joseph and Floyd both healthy at DT. Floyd flashed a couple of times yesterday, and has been a forgotten man with Joseph's breakout year.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:26pm

They really have shown up well in the last two weeks. Against Seattle it was really a horrible situation for the defence. Barr and Smith were out in the first series of the game, so the backups weren't preparing all week to play. On top of that Smith's replacement broke his ribs early on and played the rest of the game - went on IR after the game.

Speaks well of the drafting and the coaching.

That Hunter kid is impressive. 21 years old and he seems to be the Vikings best pass rusher at present.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:32pm

Great athleticism combined with high quality coaching is a pleasant thing to observe.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 3:04pm

That Justin Trattou interception was very good. It was more than just an attempt at a blocked pass from a lineman being kept from the QB. On the replay, you can see him recognizing Forte going out for a screen and getting in position to defend. It looked like the Vikings were in a stunt (this is from memory) so he must have had some responsibility for an RB releasing to that side and he fulfilled it perfectly.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:11pm

My favorite moment of the Vikings-Bears game was when Robison strip-sacked Cutler and recovered the fumble; the broadcast showed a slow-motion replay of Cutler staring at Kyle Long in utter disgust.

by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:28pm

While the Bears appear to be headed in the right direction, the offensive line is starting to be a cause of concern. Long has not been good at tackle this season and needs to go back to guard. I've yet to read a positive word about Grasu's play (to be fair, he's filling in for the injured Montgomery but I think the expectation is for Grasu to start next year).

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:35pm

Well certainly, you'd want things to be better (and this past game was a rough showing), it's pretty hard to complain about a unit that's currently 5th in adjusted sack rate and 10th in adjusted line yards. That's with rotating various players in and out to deal with injuries this year too.

It's far below concerns like: a linebacker who can cover, read a running play and tackle; A safety who occasionally makes a play in pass defense and can tackle; Someone besides Alshon Jeffery who can get open and catch.

by duh :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 2:08pm

Yes, that was a priceless look.

by JFP :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 1:48pm

Tom Gower: Word that best describes the second half: somnambulant.

It's cromulent use of vocabulary like this that keeps me coming back to FO.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 2:00pm


didn't raef audicle cmments yet. T. Gower must've made that comment abiotu Broncos performance. unless talking about whole game which wopuild porbably be titas n sv [ates game. Horrible game tbat would have been to watch. inept titnas vs boring Pates

by brenthutto :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 2:07pm

Yes. Deployment of a well-chosen polysyllabic adjective can embiggen any discussion.

by Steve B :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 2:02pm

How many here thought a couple months ago that we'd sitting here about to go into week 16 with the possibility of an 11-win team missing the playoffs in the AFC?

by pats-fan-in-nyc :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 2:27pm

I wouldn't have predicted it, but given how much better the AFC is than the NFC, it's not too shocking that some team might beef up their record against weak NFC and/or AFC South opponents only to have another team do that as well.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 2:49pm

The AFC is 28-34 against the NFC. The NFC is simply top heavy.

by SandyRiver :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 4:46pm

More like the AFC is bottom heavy. Top 6 W-L in the NFC total 61 wins, AFC 60. Bottom 6 for NFC total 54, AFC 60. Four of the six teams with 10 or more losses are AFC.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 3:24pm

While I don't think it's a given that the AFC team left out will be 11-5, it's quite possible it will be the team that fattened up on the AFC South and NFC East that misses the playoffs at 10 wins or more. I'll have mixed feelings if that happens; if the Jets deserved the playoffs more than Houston, they should have defeated them. KC and Pittsburgh are higher than them in DVOA, and are probably bigger threats to make noise in the playoffs. On the glass is half full side, the Jets will be in better draft position to take one of the top four tackles, and will get the chance next year to prove to the Steelers and the Chiefs that they belonged in the playoffs and not them. Glass half empty, Wilkerson, Ivory and Fitzpatrick are free agents. Overall, I'm already happy with Bowles' first year.

by Led :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 3:43pm

I think there's a good chance that either the Broncos lose to the Bengals or the Chiefs lose to the Raiders (or both). So if the Jets actually beat the Pats and the Bills, they will probably make the playoffs. But the odds are they won't beat the Pats, and so it won't matter anyway. I can't complain too much about 10-6, but losing to the Texans because they decided not to double or triple team Watt every single play is a bit frustrating.

by jtr :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 2:04pm

On the blown-coverage Emmanual Sanders TD, it looked like Ryan Shazier specifically changed the coverage to put himself on Sanders, then promptly wandered off somewhere else right after the snap. The Steelers D has had a ton of miscommunications this year where no one at all picks up a receiver. The weird thing is, it doesn't look like anything else has changed about the defense under Butler; they're still running the same formations and blitzes and they did under LeBeau, so you wouldn't think there would be so much confusion.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 2:14pm

Sterling, "Broncos are now remarkably 0-for-6 on third downs after converting their first eight." It did not get better, they ended the half at 1 for 9 and 0 for 2 on 4th downs. That game was really a Tale of Two Halfs. "Let's see if the fans will notice when we have the teams change uniforms at halftime".

by tunesmith :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 5:12pm

Still difficult to find an explanation as to what happened with the Broncos offense. Best I can think of is that the truth of their offense with Osweiler is somewhere in between - they over-performed slightly in the first half with some unlikely third-and-long conversions, and under-performed in the second half. It didn't seem like it had a clear explanation though, not like last week where you could point directly to drops and pass rush pressure.

Osweiler seems like he is better than someone who sucks if their first read isn't available. He does do things like look off coverage, and I've seen him complete passes off of scrambles and busted plays, too. So, better than a backup quarterback, but probably more like a second-tier starting quarterback. You'd like to think that he's the type of quarterback you could win a super bowl with if you had a dominant defense, but it's not that simple since that is basically what the Broncos are right now, Antonio Brown aside.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 5:29pm

Kubiak is known for a very structured offense right? Maybe his first half scripting is really good, but he struggles with second half adjustments?

by deus01 :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 6:04pm

He does seem to have a problem making adjustments in the second half and also seems to be content with a small lead and let his offense be very conservative.

The broncos have failed to get any points in the second half in the last three games and have had a small lead going into the half each time.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 6:16pm

14 points is a small lead?
The standard is the standard!

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 5:32pm

You'd like to think that he's the type of quarterback you could win a super bowl with if you had a dominant defense, but it's not that simple since that is basically what the Broncos are right now, Antonio Brown aside.

That game didn't prove that he isn't. A close loss on the road to a really good team is nothing to be ashamed of. After all, this team also beat New England at home.

by hector :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 2:29pm

Disclaimers: I am not a Washington fan. I have no stake in Cousins in any way.

Cousins, last eight games: 16 TD, 3 INT, 115.0 rating. Yes, plays better at home. Yes, some cushy draws. But YES, he is playing pretty well.

No, not a savior. But maybe he's at least average or better than average. He sure looks better than RG3 to me, well, the post-rookie RG3.

I now look forward to more of Cian's Twitter propaganda, centered around proving that Cousins is a joke. It's funny how Washington is almost never discussed here, especially when Cousins plays well. I know, I read the disclaimer, we live where we live and we watch what we watch. Got it. But it seems a little intentional sometimes. If Cousins lost a game with a pick-6, I get the idea one FO guy would break it down like a Zapruder tape.

by MustafaSmith :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 3:37pm

Cousins has had significantly positive DYAR (relative to the number of games he's played) in 3 of his 4 years in the league. Last year, when everyone was trashing him and wanted him gone, Cousins posted top-15 QB efficiency numbers per FO. Same thing this year, even when he opened the season playing what most analysts believed to be poorly. Cousins should be a guy that footballoutsiders staff points to and says that if we truly believe that our numbers offer valuable insight, then this is one guy whose actual performance according to us has been almost the opposite of the consensus among analysts and traditionalists.

It's one thing when it's guys who are 30+ and probably not worth standing on the table for at this point in their careers, like McCown and Fitzpatrick. But Cousins is just 27, was once thought to be a 2nd or 3rd round talent in a year that was stocked to the brim with QBs, and has been sidelined more by politics than actual play.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 3:52pm

Interesting item: the Jets tried to trade for Cousins after Geno got punched out of commission, but the Washington brass wouldn't go for it. So that's two teams that disagree with the expert consensus on him.

by duh :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 3:54pm

The issue with Cousins up until now has always been INTs he's made big strides in that area this year cutting the rate nearly in half.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 4:06pm

He's also had the advantage of playing against fellow bad NFC East teams, as well as getting to go up against the NFC South, where outside of Carolina pass defense is a pretty theoretical concept. Cousins has improved, but he's been playing against a less-than-impressive spate of defenses.

by MustafaSmith :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 4:25pm

Per the Quick Reads columns, he has racked up 417 DYAR in the 7 games leading up to the Bills game (which will almost certainly be another 80+). 500 DYAR in 8 games is quite good, especially relative to Cousins' nation-wide reputation as a backup QB or average starter. He's playing well even when you adjust for the competition he's faced.

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 4:39pm

I am really not sold on DVAO and DYAR in the way many people use them. But I think it is for exactly this sort of reality check where they are most useful. Sure the DYAR is only a rough approximation, but it can give you a quick a dirty look at whether the "weak defenses" argument holds water.

by brenthutto :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 4:40pm

"Per the Quick Reads columns, he has racked up 417 DYAR in the 7 games leading up to the Bills game"...

That's about twice the DYAR of Aaron Rodgers over the same stretch and 90% as much as Cam Newton. Career numbers aside, any QB playing half a season with production in the same balpark with an MVP candidate is not playing like a scrub.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 4:43pm

He ranks 11th by DVOA, give or take a little bit and that's pretty much "average starter".

Edit: Average starter should not be taken as an insult.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 5:03pm

I'm admittedly suffering from "It's Just Kirk Cousins" syndrome, which is probably just a holdover from the "Nick Foles Is Apparently Really Good" syndrome from a few years ago. I need to see a second year before I begin to believe.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 5:04pm

After colin Kaepernick, you may need to see at least 3.

by Led :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 5:44pm

That's the thing -- this is the second year already. Last year, over 212 pass attempts, his DVOA was 4.6%, or just a hair worse than Russell Wilson. To conclude that Cousins isn't a pretty solid QB, you have to explain his numbers over the last 2 years.

EDIT: Softened the last sentence a bit.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 5:59pm

Someone who passes like Wilson from last year but doesn't run like him, might not be considered a very good QB.

Ryan Tannehill had a 4.1% DVOA last year too and with a larger sample size.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 6:32pm

Yeah, but someone who doesn't run like RW but passes like he did last year is Andy Dalton any year before now. As much as many like to rag on Dalton, before this season, I'd take him over random replacement QB any day of the week.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 7:00pm

Kirk Cousins: I'd take him over random replacement QB any day of the week.

by gomer_rs :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 7:28pm

Now the question is: can Washington resign him to one of those crazy Kaepernick/Dalton contracts with escalators but no guaranteed money? My understanding is that Kaepernick's agent almost was decertified by the NFLPA for that deal, and he's not going to be in RW range for his bench mark. Did Tannehill get guaranteed money? That seems like the closest comparable.

I remember when they were the Sea-chickens.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 5:19pm

The last time I tried using the "unimpressive defense" argument was against Carson Palmer last year, when he went up against the 18th, 20th, 22nd, 25th, 28th and 32nd pass defenses by DVOA. As expected, the following year against a more typical slate of defenses he regresses to the number 1 QB in DYAR and DVOA. So sometimes QBs do improve.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 4:05pm

in otherwise interesting news, guess what?
Goodell says the Pats salary cap circumvention via BradyCo is on the up and up.

The standard is the standard!

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 6:31pm

Sorry, Tomlin, I'm hijacking this gripe.

So, the Pats 2014 championship gets taken from them by the NCAA, right? But wait, the Broncos still have their Super Bowl championships from the late nineties, when they were breaking the NFL's salary cap rules; the Pats have not broken the letter of the rules, until the rules get changed. So we have to take away those trophies, correct? So who gets them? Obviously, the Packers get the first one, but the Falcons were blown out by the Broncos and Jets during the year, but the Jets had a ten point lead in the second half at Denver in the AFC championship, so:


Gotta go. I'm getting those t-shirts made right now.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 6:34pm

"Because they got away with it, we should too."

The standard is the standard!

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 6:42pm

To be honest, I don't know all the facts in this case, and the Broncos' chicanery is a little hazy in my mind, so I don't know if it was the same tactic, or if this is a case of the Pats using a loophole that needs to be closed. I'll click on that link you posted on the Beckham debacle to educate myself.

All that said, I would just prefer if my favorite team took care of the problem on the field.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 10:41pm

Broncos were rather blatant:

"NEW YORK -- The Denver Broncos have been fined $950,000 and
will lose their third-round pick in next year's NFL draft for
circumventing the salary cap between 1996-98.

The penalties were levied Thursday following an agreement
involving the league, its union and the team.

The violations included agreements between the team and several
players to defer salary payments with interest and an agreement not
to waive a player before a certain date. Both raised issues with
accounting for the salary cap."


by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 10:44pm

Actually, they did it more than once back then:

"The penalties imposed Thursday on the Denver Broncos for violations of the league's rules regarding the disclosure of deferred compensation to players and the salary cap were the second sanctions against the team for similar infractions in less than three years.

In December 2001, the Broncos were fined $968,000 and lost a third-round pick in the 2002 draft for violations reportedly relating to $29 million in deferred payments to quarterback John Elway and running back Terrell Davis."


It'll be interesting to read what tortured excuse morganja comes up with to let the Broncos off the hook for those violations and/or say how they were insignificant compared to NE's monstrous scheme.

by morganja :: Tue, 12/22/2015 - 11:40am

Broncos fully deserved their punishment.
Tortured excuses are the copyrighted property of the Patriots.

by aces4me :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 11:18pm

To what does this refer?
Never mind. Found the article.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 4:58pm

Beckham suspended 1 game. yay. Rodger Dodger got 1 right, anyways

The standard is the standard!

by erniecohen :: Mon, 12/21/2015 - 5:04pm

OK, let's put the debate to rest. On Ben's interception, the play call was reasonable. What made the throw ridiculous was that the throw was to a player that was

1) a running back
2) not a particularly good pass catcher
3) not particularly good at making the first tackler miss
4) doubly covered
5) not in a position to beat the coverage to the ball, regardless of where it was thrown or or what he did
6) at the sideline, where he was unlikely to stay in bounds
7) not close to a first down

The throw would have been a poor decision at any point in the game, much less in the given game situation.

by FlippingADollar :: Wed, 12/23/2015 - 10:41am

Was all excited to see others' thoughts about the Chiefs against the Ravens, and all I got was "ugly pants."